What LCK’s 2021 plans mean for Korean esports and LoL
January 8, 2021, by Rakesh Naik
League of Legends Champions Korea, commonly abbreviated as LCK, is the primary competition for League of Legends esports in South Korea.
Contested by ten teams, the league runs two seasons per year and serves as a direct route to qualification for the annual League of Legends World Championship.
LCK 2021 for the first time in history will completely be an online affair due to the pandemic situation.
LCK as we know is a direct ticket to the ultimate LoL tournament, the Worlds. The title ended strong in 2020 and here are a few numbers to put forth its prowess. LCK amassed 65 million watch hours for airtime of 282 hours with an average viewer count of 233K and peaking at 1 million views. Peak viewership touched 16 million if we were to count the numbers from China as well.
League of Legends Championship Korea (LCK) underwent a makeover recently and looks like Korea is getting the best out of one of the most popular esports titles. We will be looking at all the major changes brought in to the core of the tournament in terms of tournament structure, prize pool, sponsors, player salaries and lot more.
Coming first in the line of the long list of changes is the prize pool of the tournament. Head of LCK Sean Oh announced a 25 percent hike in the prize pool per split. The tournament will now award 368K USD per split as compared to the 276K USD being awarded till last year. And the first place has a massive 183K USD to take home as compared to 92K USD, which is a straight-up double of what the tournament has been offering till now. This fairly doubles the player earnings from the tournament winnings after the standard cut-off for the organizations (If at all the team owners decide to stick to the 60-40 standards even after the hike). This will in turn scale up the spending and sponsorships for winners and will serve as a reference for the emerging teams in the future of the tournament.
Coming to the most significant part of the revamp, the new bracket system, which will give a lot more opportunities for more teams to be a part of the tournament and have a shot at the finals. The tradition of giving the winners a bye into the finals has been scrapped off. From this year onwards, the top 6 teams of the regular season will go into a 6 team best-of-5 bracket to determine the teams for the split. This will ensure that more and more teams will try their best to have that top 6 slots leading to more matches, robust league structure and a broader storyline of the regular season before wrapping it up with the best teams in the Split Finals.
LCK has announced January 13 as the start date for the Spring Split with the following teams:
The following teams will be participating in the league in the coming season:
- Afreeca Freecs
- DWG KIA
- Fredit Brion
- Gen.G Esports
- Hanwha Life Esports
- KT Rolster
- Liiv SANDBOX
- NS RedFroce
There will be a total of two matches each day, round 1 will take place five days a week (Wed-Sun), and round 2 will take place four days a week (Thurs-Sun). The regular season will have best-of-three matches, and the teams will follow a double round-robin format. The first week of 2021 LCK Spring will be on patch 11.1. The 6 team playoffs will kick-off from March 31.
Player and coach salaries under LCK has received a massive hike under the LCK 2021 plan. Players will now receive 55K USD as minimum salary which has grown 3x in comparison to the 18K USD till 2020. The way Sean Oh has structured the player fees is to retain as many players as possible given the job stability factor after the hike.
Under the new ruleset, teams in LCK and LCK CL can now call up and send down players three times during the split, which is at the beginning of the first and the second round and one right before the playoffs. The ease of transfer of talents will enable teams to try out the best possible combinations right before the playoffs.
Even the much-revered LCK Awards was not spared. The ‘Young Player’ award and the ‘Rookie of the Year’ ward will see major changes to its criteria for the nominees. Under 19 players will have to have played at least 18 sets in the regular split and also under one roster for up to two years. A great move indeed to inculcate loyalty and commitment for the emerging players. The LCK awards will be given out once a year with no returning nominees. Large scale recognition factor has always been a core integral perk of LCK and a much-evolved award ceremony will add on to the quality of the talents coming in.
The LCK 2021 talent line-up has Jeon ‘Caster Jun’ Yong-jun, Sung Seung-heon, Kim Dong-joon, Lee ‘CloudTemplar’ Hyun-woo, Kang ‘Kangqui’ Seung-hyun, and Jeong ‘NoFe’ No-chul. The global caster line-up will consist of Max ‘Atlus’ Anderson, and Brendan ‘Valdes’ Valdes, with Wolf ‘Wolf’ Schröder and Maurits ‘Chronicler’ Meeusen, newly joining the line-up.
SK Telecom and Sidiz have parted ways with Korean League of Legends and in comes popular gaming chair manufacturers Secret Lab along with OMEN, the gaming division of HP. While McDonald’s, Woori Bank and Logitech stayed for the new season. Logitech has played a major role in developing the esports market with regards to high-end peripherals and elevating the overall quality of esports in the region. Lotte and TikTok ended their short association after 2020. The pandemic has cleared the air and has thrown the ball in the court of big brands that esports is here to stay and a microscopic virus is not going to ruin the party. KIA’s partnership with world champions DAMWON is a good example for established brands to test the waters.
LCK 2021 for the first time in history will completely be an online affair due to the pandemic situation. But that shouldn’t affect the flow of numbers in any way as it hasn’t in the industry in many parts of the world. Korea as the Mecca of League of Legends is going big and hard to get more players, more content, more money and more viewers for the spectacle of a tournament that’s LCK.